Tanzania’s Agricultural Progress: Insights from SAGCOT’s CEO at Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit

Kilimokwanza.org Reporter

During a side event titled “Partnering for Soil Health Data” at the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health (AFSH) Summit in Nairobi, Geoffrey Kirenga, the CEO of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), shared transformative strategies and insights into Tanzania’s efforts to enhance soil health and agricultural productivity.

Kirenga discussed the pivotal role of public-private partnerships in propelling Tanzania’s agricultural sector forward. He emphasized the critical importance of soil health, stating, “Soil is the mother of everything. We need to feed this soil and feed it well but sustainably.”

Under Kirenga’s leadership, SAGCOT has been at the forefront of integrating soil health practices that have tripled agricultural productivity in certain areas. These practices include minimizing soil disturbance, improving organic matter utilization, and optimizing fertilizer use. The CEO highlighted the success of initiatives like Soil Hive, which facilitates comprehensive soil health management by harnessing and analyzing agricultural data.

The event provided a platform for Kirenga to advocate for enhanced data-driven approaches in agriculture, underscoring the necessity of technological innovations and robust data systems to support sustainable farming practices across Tanzania.

Kirenga’s message at the summit conveyed a strong sense of optimism and determination as SAGCOT expands its initiatives to wider regions of Tanzania. It aims to bolster food security, environmental sustainability, and economic growth through strategic partnerships and data integration in agriculture.

Kirenga began by highlighting SAGCOT’s transformative work in fostering partnerships between the government and private sector to boost agricultural productivity in Tanzania. He emphasized the need for holistic soil health management practices, which are essential for increasing food production and maintaining the environmental sustainability of farming practices.

He noted that maintaining soil health should involve minimal disturbance to the soil, integrating organic matter, and ensuring proper nutrient management through balanced fertilization. Kirenga pointed out that these practices contribute significantly to tripling productivity in some regions within Tanzania where SAGCOT has been active.

Kirenga also touched on the importance of technology and data in modern agriculture. He highlighted the success of platforms like Soil Hive, which have been crucial in gathering and utilizing agricultural data to improve soil health management across Tanzania. According to Kirenga, this approach is critical for scaling up successful interventions and ensuring their adoption across broader regions.

Moreover, Kirenga shared insights on continuous innovation and adaptation in agricultural practices to meet the changing environmental and market needs. He called for increased investment in research and development to foster new solutions for sustainable agriculture.

Kirenga conveyed a message of hope and progress, emphasizing that with the right partnerships and technology, significant strides can be made in improving soil health, which is foundational to achieving food security and economic stability in Tanzania and beyond.

Tor-Gunnar Vågen (C4 eCraft) Tor highlighted the importance of addressing data gaps and utilization issues to use soil health data effectively. He discussed innovative technologies that allow rapid, cost-effective soil analysis, critical for scaling solutions across Africa. He emphasized the need to develop tools that make soil data accessible and actionable for different stakeholders, stressing the necessity of co-developing platforms with direct input from users to ensure relevancy and applicability.

Simone Sala (VAA) Simone discussed the role of the private sector in enhancing soil data systems. He identified three key areas where private sector involvement is crucial: as consumers of soil data, which helps develop robust multi-purpose systems; as producers of data, where sharing could significantly enhance public knowledge; and in innovating data exchange and sharing mechanisms to address the reasons behind data hoarding.

Ingelise Lus (NORAD) Ingelise focused on the donor perspective, emphasizing the role of donors in promoting open and interoperable data systems. She advocated for policies encouraging data sharing and stressed the importance of aligning donor-funded projects with national data initiatives to ensure efficient resource use and maximize the impact of collected data.

Wuletawu Abera Amalo (Excellence in Agronomy Initiative) Wuletawu discussed the role of the Excellence in Agronomy initiative in creating a standardized data ecosystem across Africa. He highlighted efforts to collect and pool agronomic data from various sources, standardize data collection methods, and develop tools for agronomic advisory services. This initiative will leverage a continent-wide partnership network to provide scalable, locally relevant agronomic solutions.

Each presenter provided insights into different aspects of the soil health data ecosystem, from technological innovations and data-sharing policies to integrating private sector capabilities and standardizing data practices across a continent-wide network. Together, they underscored the collaborative effort to enhance soil health data systems for improved agricultural productivity and sustainability.